Remind Me. What is the Definition of Freedom?

July 16, 2020

By: Sara Haile

Selam Cedra (Peace Family),

The origins of most names hold history, exhibit praise, express honor, and sometimes the meaning behind your own name can hold so much weight that it defines who you are, should and/or will become. Names are beyond the motive of identification.   

“My God is Yahweh”… these four words make up the name Eliyyahu, or the anglicized, Elijah- a prophet and a miracle worker. Many miracles were performed through Elijah, including resurrection, bringing fire down from the sky, and entering Heaven alive “by fire”. Elijah is also portrayed asleading a school of prophets known as “the sons of the prophets”. You may know an Elijah or two, but the one my heart is in ache for, is the story of Elijah McClain. I am ashamed to admit that I am only now learning about Elijah’s tragic circumstances, nearly a year later, as it was not heavily publicized [the revolution will not be televised]. Unfortunately, and sadly, Elijah is not the first martyr of the genocide of Black people in this country. However, his death brought up suppressed sorrow about a beautiful soul I had the fortune of being a case manager to, within the foster care system, seven years ago. At only 19, my youth was the latest victim of an officer involved shooting. I wish I could say this was the last police-involved killing that hit close to home, or the last instance of a young person whom I have worked with that was tragically killed.   

Those of us who are passionate about witnessing our young people thrive, learn, and navigate through the intricacies of life, wholeheartedly know it is more than just a job. It is a privilege to be trusted and enlightened by our young people. It is work that does not end at “40hrs/week”. It is the type of work that we are constantly executing until we see our young people jump over hurdles and reach their milestones, and eventually even maturing to mentoring their own group of young people. But what do you do when your young person meets the crossroads? You still fight for your young person! I had to learn to expose the energy of my anguish and anger and use it to challenge the mindsets and faulty systems. As an advocate in the youth development sector, your relationship with young people holds transformative power. It is also vital to comprehend and be receptive to what your youth can teach you as well. Please, take a moment and watch this powerful Black Youth Town Hall, to experience what our youth are capable of, with the support and guidance from folks like you and me.         

Let us not remember Elijah McClain by his last words, but instead acknowledge his truest essence, which included playing the violin for stray cats, and was known as a “gentle spirit”. The chokehold and the sedative may have killed him in the physical sense, but God is still working miracles through Elijah- (resurrection) the case has been given new attention amidst the 2nd wave of the Black Lives Movement, (bringing fire down from the sky) changes to policies are being implemented, and (entering Heaven alive “by fire”) although justice was delayed, only with a public struggle is the failure of our system being revealed over and over again. Elijah McClain should not be seen as the sacrificial lamb, but rather the prophet leading the school of prophets. It is our duty to not allow his death be in vain.      

Systemic change in the United States of America has never come without protest. Assata Shukar said it best, “nobody in the world, nobody in history, has ever gotten their freedom by appealing to the moral sense of the people who were oppressing them”. However, during these unprecedented times, or even because of a deep emotional exhaustion, protest may necessarily not be the route for all, and that is okay! Below is an opportunity for you and your mentee(s) to collaborate and decipher your roles in the social change ecosystem. 

Be safe this weekend, and remember no one is free until we all are free.